PerspectiveEcology

The growing challenge of vegetation change

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Science  21 May 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6544, pp. 786-787
DOI: 10.1126/science.abi9902

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Summary

A substantial portion of the planet has been on fire. Climate change has been implicated in sweeping wildfires in the western United States, Australia, the boreal forest stretching around the globe, Amazonia, and elsewhere (1). Other forests have experienced extensive tree loss, again largely because of hotter and drier climate extremes (2, 3). Forest disturbance driven by aridity, heat, fire, disease, pests, and wind creates opportunity for vegetation change. At the same time, climate change shifts conditions to favor different plant species across the landscape. The risk of future vegetation and ecosystem change will continue to grow unless climate change is strongly slowed (4). On page 860 of this issue, Mottl et al. (5) reveal that the drivers of global vegetation change are more substantial than thought, as are the implications for managing carbon with plants.

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